Thursday, November 17, 2016

Johar's stumbling "Dil" narrowly manages to eke out a hearty message


by Nahil Naqub

Whether overhyped or not, it's not easy ignoring a product of Karan Johar - whatever it is. Yet when it comes to "Ae Dil Hai Mushkil", the auteur's uncharacteristic fumbling makes the viewer feel that he could still learn a lesson or two - on taut screenwriting - from masters such as Rajkumar Hirani ("3 Idiots") and Imtiaz Ali ("Highway").

I fell asleep half an hour into the movie, and not because it felt like I was seeing a mix of "Tamasha" crossed with "Queen" and "Before Sunrise". So I had to devote a second day to deliberately watch the movie while on a coffee binge. In fact, you can largely ignore the first half of the movie - before the "intermission" - and still not miss Johar's unique message; that the basis of all forms of human relationships is a 'friendship of sorts' that does not necessarily translate into 'ishq' or romantic love.

We have heard too often the old story that Indian audiences feel a movie inadequate if a movie is not at least 3 hours long, but Johar's 2 and half hour movie does not warrant the lengthy segment covering Ranbir Kapoor's "relationship" with Anushka Sharma. Indeed, one feels that the first half of the movie is too loud and unnecessarily chatty - not to mention sidelining Aishwarya Rai's appearance only in the second half, making us feel that it was just another special appearance like Shah Rukh Khan’s.

If not for the first half’s frustrating script, Johar could have covered Anushka’s relationship with Ranbir within a not-so-long segment - and possibly save himself from criticism for the film being one of this year’s worst. There are alternate ways humans express sudden brainy philosophies (like short films), and the message of “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil” definitely feels like a sudden inspiration that hit Johar in the heart one fine day - only to fall victim to a failure of his imagination to express the message appropriately on a visual medium such as a feature length cinematic film.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

I couldn’t stop smiling, nor the tears from falling

by Amira 

Kai Po Che (meaning a triumphant yell in Gujarati) is simply beautiful, down to earth and beautiful, sensational and beautiful, bringing lots of stories together and beautiful. Read more


Comics, sci-fi, fantasy... childish stuff?

by Hilath

I have quite a few friends who are turned off by comics, science fiction and fantasy. Though I am not a hardcore comic fan (my family was too poor to afford me such luxury during my childhood), I've always enjoyed it and always make sure, even if I miss out the "serious artsy stuff", that I always catch up on movies like Spider-Man, Ender's Game and Lord of the Rings.

Today I finally had a talk with a Maldivian friend of mine who I can safely assume is a hardcore comic fan and from the conversation I had with him, I realized that, in fact, these anti-comic people are really the not-so-mature ones because things like parables/allegories/metaphors seem lost on them and therefore they treat the comic genre as childish. Read more


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

NOAH – blasphemy or Aronofsky’s ultimate consciousness-raiser on derangement?

REVIEW by Ilyasau Ismail / Oevaru 

(Read review in Dhivehi)

OMG. Aronofsky’s ‪#‎Noah‬ (3 out of 5 stars) indeed is better than the book.

I didn’t enjoy the movie personally although I was stunned by the visual effects in 3D.

But there is the possibility of this film becoming a unique masterpiece from a gifted director and that this film may become a catalyst for a revolutionary cultural phenomenon that will spark eternal debate. Read more


Sunday, April 6, 2014

After “Titanic”, “Pompeii”?

REVIEW by Mariyam Raina

As Bollywood lovers, we found “Titanic” quite “Hindi” and wondered back then whether this was the reason why the film broke box office records when it came out in 1997. Read more

After Earth: What makes a movie bad?

REVIEW by Ilyasau Ismail

I have to seriously wonder about it as I watched ‘After Earth’ today, three days after it won three Razzie awards, and surprisingly, I found it a pleasant entertaining engagement instead. Read more

Friday, March 21, 2014

Ingenuity makes all 'entertaining' difference between WHITE HOUSE DOWN and OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN


REVIEW by Hilath

Not surprisingly, Fuqua has even outdone Emmerich in staging action more dramatically; the way the black hawks fall are perhaps more dramatically staged than Ridley Scott's Oscar-nominated BLACK HAWK DOWN on the failed American attack on Somalia terrorists in Mogadishu. While Scott had less technology in 2001, nevertheless the creative way Fuqua staged the falling of the black hawks is still impressive although he had the technology last year. I guess this is a basic difference why I found TITANIC's singular sinking more impressive at a time of no such visual effects in 1997 than PEARL HARBOR's multiple vessel sinking at the time when such visual effects were available in 2001.

I particularly liked the series of fist fights (perhaps due to the slick editing?) and if I had any doubts why Fuqua did not employ a heart throb like Channing Tatum to sell the movie, I have to say his choice of Gerard Butler is great - given his ability not only to act better but also emerge as a great action hero, too.

Other things that differ between the two movies is that, unlike Tatum, Butler is as brutal as the terrorists as he murders them in cold blood - and reminded me of Orson Scott Card's Ender who makes sure that the enemy "gets the message" and does not rise to create trouble again.

Both Emmerich and Fuqua's movies have children and though Fuqua does not give a lead role to the presidential son but only uses him to set a turning point in the movie, Emmerich's heroic daughter of Tatum seems given a heroic role in order to please a children and adolescent audience - who are usually fans of Emmerich's films like INDEPENDENCE DAY and GODZILLA.
Perhaps Fuqua emerges the winner in this 'presidential' race (is it a coincidence that the two rival films on an attack on the White House came out in the same year?) due to the more dark and engaging - not to mention - brutal story that is appropriate for such a concept. However, I only say this because Fuqua's story is more entertaining because in both films' cases, I've wondered how an attack on the White House can be carried, because in the TV anchor's words in Fuqua's movie, the White House is indeed the "most protected place on earth".

And this is where I found both movies' plots implausible though Fuqua's is more entertaining due to the way the terrorists are shown to use advanced technology - including sonar that prevents missile attacks. (A commentator to the above YouTube trailer comparison says we should not take these two movies seriously and says Fuqua is guilty of doing this in service of pure entertainment).

Though the United States was not anticipating that such an attack like September 11 can happen, I am sure after that it must be now prepared and therefore, the White House cannot be as easily attacked as both films show. But I still think that if there is a full scale World War 3, the US can be attacked like in PEARL HARBOR, even though at the time, as director Michael Bay said, Americans were "innocent and naive" and therefore was not expecting an attack by the Japanese in World War 2.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A psychological re-awakening

REVIEW BY HILATH


The unfilmable finally filmed. You can count on only auteurs like Oscar-winning director Ang Lee to make a film out of a book that most say cannot be turned into a movie!

Not only because of the film's awesome photography and production design (which both won Oscars) which I have to say is the best visuals I ever saw since James Cameron's Avatar (and not just because of its 3D which unfortunately I was not able to catch because Sri Lankan cinemas did not screen it), I loved how the visuals become complementary to the narrative. Read more

Interesting introduction to astral projection...

REVIEW BY HILATH

INSIDIOUS was an interesting introduction to the concept of astral projection but predictably, perhaps because the film is coming from the makers of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY and SAW, they took the part of the horror factor to entertain audiences. Not that I mind. The tagline 'It's not the house that is haunted but their son' is quite catchy, I might add, which first led me to decide to watch the movie because I am not much into horror movies but here was a film that at least do not blame an old house for a haunting :-) I particularly like the production design - the gloomy environment of the demon world. I am told INSIDIOUS 2 is also quite interesting and hope to catch it soon.

Friday, February 14, 2014

What exactly it takes to get there

REVIEW BY ADEEL SAEED

The story of the legendary athlete, ‘Milkha Singh’, ‘the flying Sikh’, demonstrated in the movie ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’ can just be perfect example of what it takes to become success in life. More particularly for this addition of my blog, what it really takes to be an industry leader in business. Read more


So it snowed

REVIEW BY HILATH

The visually elaborate SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN, in re-telling the story, seems to have lost more than its way in the woods, as towards the end, I am not sure exactly by the kiss of which one of the two men she woke up and whether, with Kristen Stewart around, we are headed once again towards another TWILIGHT love triangle.

Saving grace

REVIEW BY HILATH

CONAN THE (latest) BARBARIAN film had only one grace: the scene where little Conan holds onto the iron hot chains to save his father even when his hands get scalded -- without even seeming to feel the pain. I once spent 10 days at the hospital looking after a close friend all by myself and it was only later I realized that I hadn't slept at all during those 10 days and didn't even realize it because I didn't feel tired at all. That's why I think such kind of emotional attachments (love?) are dangerous because they take its toll on us without us even being able to realize it -- or worse, rather than being appreciated, taken the wrong meaning of just because I happen to be what I am. So how did the story end? He relapsed again and accused me that I was only taking care of him because all I ever wanted was to get into his pants somehow. So unfair. I hope I never fall in love again.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

'Riddick' - a masterpiece of ridicule

REVIEW BY HILATH 

Even before Paul Walker died, 'Fast and Furious 6' was screened twice at Majestic City cinema in Colombo's Bambalapitiya ward, with the phrase 'BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND' posted on the billboard the second time it was erected on Galle Road in Sri Lanka's busy main street. But now I understand why no cinema in the whole island was interested in screening the definitively named 'Riddick' - though however outrageous Vin Diesel's testosterone filled films usually are, they are thronged by millions of females attracted to an alpha male like moths to a moon.
http://ryan-thegrav-berry.deviantart.com/art/Riddick-Poster-393935413

But calling Diesel's latest vehicle riddick-ulous may be giving it more credit than it deserves because sometimes the more outrageous a film becomes, you could actually enjoy it - like I having watched 'The Core' more than one time. Sure, the third film still has retained its classic inter-planetary look but, call it a cosmic coincidence, the big budget 'Riddick' suffers from a lack of credible visual effects that, if the movie was any brighter, I am sure it would have revealed the defects of his improperly rendered pet which itself is an undecided crossbreed between a wolf, a tiger and Ridley Scott's alien planted with Avatar-esque ears.

Whenever I list 'Pitch Black' as one of my all-time favorite movies, my "intellectual" friends always joke about it but then that film had an engaging quality not least because of Diesel's gigantic presence. But the one-liners/monologues/soliloquies of the third sequel is so sickening that you wonder whether this was a world record attempt to make a Razzie-deserving worst movie of all time. Only a true artist could come  up with a textbook case like this film which should be taught to budding filmmakers and students in all film theory classes of the 1001 Things To Avoid When Making A Feature Film. Diesel may be perfect as Riddick because his glow-in-the-dark eyes have an arresting ethereal quality to them but anyone who ever had any respect for a thing called a 'screenplay' should definitely avoid a crash course with this runaway engine.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Savoy "3D"...misleading marketing?

Krrish 3's poster at "Savoy 3D" cinema in Colombo, Sri Lanka, has that "3D and Real D" written in small letters at the bottom. And a huge billboard near the Wellawatte petrol shed on Galle Road states that Krrish 3 will be released "at Savoy 3D and worldwide in November".

And my point? Don't be duped. The film being released at "Savoy 3D" doesn't mean that all those films get a 3D release - as I found out recently to my inconvenience. It seems that "Savoy 3D - Wellawatte" actually seems to be the name of the cinema! Read more

http://trooperunlimited.blogspot.com/2013/11/savoy-3d-misleading-marketing.html

Sunday, August 25, 2013

MADRAS CAFÉ: A rare engaging political thriller from Bollywood

REVIEW by Hilath


It’s not every day that you come across from Bollywood what could be called a political thriller. But MADRAS CAFÉ, which was released worldwide on Friday, despite its flaws, is not one that disappoints its two-hour run.

Much in the director’s skill in execution depends on the compactness of the screenplay, to-the-point dialogue, the complementing gritty cinematography and fast-paced editing with a score that keeps you glued to the screen without aware of the frames – or time – passing.


And for once, John Abraham mercifully does not take off his shirt, even once, to distract us from the otherwise very-serious plot, perhaps because, as he said in his interview, he had to lose some muscle as Indian army officers are not necessarily beefed up and look like your average regular guy – and perhaps also because this is the first time he got the opportunity for some serious acting rather than emanating star power from his good looks. Though I have no complaints against him, I still wonder whether an actor like Ajay Devgan would have been more fit for a role like this.

While the film claims it is fictional, there is no doubt that, even if the name Rajiv Gandhi is never mentioned in the film, this is about the Sri Lankan Tamil Tiger plot to assassinate the former Indian Prime Minister. Perhaps, like Katherine Bigelow’s ZERO DARK THIRTY on the hunt for Osama bin Laden, which has the interesting tagline ‘The Biggest Manhunt in Human History’, MADRAS CAFÉ should have copied Bigelow’s “claimer” that the film was “based on firsthand accounts of actual events.”

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Let's talk about Hitchcock

This post was originally posted on Nuances.

Shall we?

Well, if I really must have a reason to talk about Hitchcock I'm going to have to rewind and fast forward quite a bit...

Too often the excuse for silly, immature, by the numbers cinema is passed on to the audience.

It shouldn't be.

See the argument goes that the audience can't, or won't be bothered, to work out "complex" ideas in a film. And someone who's new to the medium, or who hasn't checked out cinema going back a few decades or more, might be forgiven for thinking as such.

Actually, no. If you're a "movie lover" and haven't checked out at least some "old" movies/films by the likes of Orson Welles, Akira Kurosawa, François Truffaut and other such masters, then shame on you.

Well... not really shame on you... more like your loss... your serious loss.

Trailer for Akira Kurosawa's 'Rashomon'

So, let's talk about Hitchcock. Still no?

I see.

I might have been a tad vague in my reasoning for talking about Hitchcock. Hmmm... how to put it?

Okay.

You hear about how everyone... well a few people... well... maybe just a few critics are deriding that little film about robots in disguise? I mean it's the most recent picture in a trilogy of sorts... You know... the one with the giant robots and huge explosions and other... you know... explosive situations? Yea. That movie.

A lot of the times that sort of thing, because of the fact that maybe it's taking in boat loads of money, is justified, with "audiences really prefer not to think through a movie" - I'm just paraphrasing here mind. And recent, slightly skewed "research" might lead one to justify that...

Hence my want to talk about Hitchcock. Errr... no? Why? Cos we can talk about all those other guys I mentioned before you say?

Trailer for François Truffaut's 'Les Quatre cents coups' (400 Blows) 

Yea. You should really go check those guys out. Their work is beautiful, evocative and thought provoking - even when they're working with black and white and no explosions. But while they may have had mainstream appeal in their own right I wouldn't go so far as to say they had global appeal in their time... alas, they seem to have trouble with global appeal even in our time.

So.

Really.

Let's talk about Hitchcock.

Yes?

Good. Great!

He proved that you could make money with "high concept" films while not alienating the audience and still garner critical acclaim and global fame... although initially, he may have had a tough time getting some American critics to see the value in his work.

I see you pulling away now... a few more minutes? I promise I'll make it  worth your while.

Trailer for 'Psycho'

Heard of 'Psycho' (1960)? No. Not that 1998 version - which I hear was a travesty... No I really didn't watch it. There was no need to. Go see Hitchcock's original Psycho you'll see what I mean - it was shot in black and white but even with that "handicap" it does so well in eliciting a visceral reaction out of you.

If you've heard somebody describe any story as a "modern, psychological yarn" you will be surprised to see how much of that you see here in a film made in 1960 - and how much faith, unlike most modern mainstream directors, Hitchcock had in his audience.

So you think that Psycho is not that hard to follow compared to "modern" standards?

You should check out 'Vertigo' (1958).

Trailer for 'Vertigo'

Technical innovation aside, the story telling is intense, complicated and riveting. And I would argue that its complexity holds up even by modern "intellectual" standards.

That's all well and good you say? You want a pop-corn movie? One that you can sit back and enjoy? One that takes you through exciting chases, chills, thrills and a few laughs?

You don't mind all that and a little bit of intelligence and humour do you?

Try 'North by Northwest' (1959) on for size. But be warned - it's more than a bit intelligent and it has a brilliant sense of humour. You get chases, mistaken identities, spies, damsels who are decidedly not in distress (Who'd have thunk?!?! In the 50s?!?!), killer crop-duster planes... KILLER CROP-DUSTER PLANES DAMMIT!!!

Trailer for 'North by Northwest'

And those are just some of the highlights of his career.

Some of his work has inspired, and keeps inspiring, some of our greatest filmmakers today.

Take a look at Christopher Nolan's work and I can't help but see a Hitchcockian sense of humour and a sense of the same crisp, lean narrative.

Does 'Memento' (2000) not have a wicked sense of humour while making your mind do summersaults? That's kind of what Hitchcock does with North by Northwest although with a much lesser degree of a mental workout - that he leaves for Vertigo.

You know that thing that David Fincher keeps trying to do ever so often with the long, uninterrupted shots? He tried it a couple of times with 'Fight Club' (1999) and 'Panic Room'(2002)? I'd go so far as to argue that that was pure Hitchcock inspired - see 'Rope' (1948) and you'll get where I'm coming from.

Tailer for 'Rope' - like a few of Hitchcock's trailers
contains little from the actual film.

So yea.

That's why we needed to talk about Hitchcock.

Also, remember the other guys I told you about? Well... Hitchcock was my stepping stone to those guys. No. He's not less important than they are - if anything, for me, he might be slightly more important.

So what it comes down to... what I guess I am saying is...

It's okay if you make "crappy" movies - just don't justify it by saying that the audience won't get it. Yea... what I'm saying is... the audience are intelligent enough to grasp almost anything you can throw at them.

Seriously.

If they weren't David Lynch and a few other directors you might have heard of wouldn't have careers.

Edit; July 12, 2011:

I consider myself not adequately chastised for missing out on naming Ingmar Bergman in my original post - that is one name which should not have been missed. I've attempted to fix this inexcusable oversight by adding a link to the original post - I felt it might be cheating to edit the text afterwards. Thanks to shaari for bringing this to my attention.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Winter is coming… brrrr

REVIEW BY HILATH

This is one time where I cannot reveal anything lest I spoil this one damned gem I recently found from among the thousands of media trash churned out by profit-oriented studios.



Suffice to say that, right when I thought that there was nothing for me here in this meaningless universe, I’ve been suddenly forced to reconsider my earlier aspirations for committing suicide because here is one universe created by George R. R. Martin which, for me, is like a wake-up call -- for a person like me who am constantly dazed and confused because I have to keep one leg in a Conservative but vocal society while keeping another leg in the Liberal but silent society, living side by side in a small island capital.

Sometimes, because it’s the Conservative society that is most visible and for which you feel pressured to belong, I get lost in the fake (Kasauti) reality they have created, seeing everything through religion-tinted spectacles. So ever since Game of Thrones began to air this year, it has served as a fan to cool down the continuous psychological assault on my Liberal values by the Conservative Maldivians.


Based on Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, it hits you like a fresh breath of air, and having watched Season 1’s 9th episode today, I thought I should share my liking for this as I await the season finale next Monday which I am sure will be as breathtaking and heartstopping as the rest of the episodes.

Not to spoil anything, I would simply and shortly say that Game of Thrones is a “realistic fantasy” in that, basically you are treated to a world where raw nature rules. Yes, it’s the jungle. The indifferent, unemotional universe. And the drama that takes there -- a clash of egos, and its interesting outcomes, when sentient beings purse their self-interest in a world where everyone, including children, know the meaning of “survival of the fittest” and perhaps also, the strongest.

And as Martin’s universe does not know yet what democracy and Liberalism are, you can expect violence and sex -- coming no less from HBO itself -- on a scale that is unprecedented and as a result has left many a Kasauti American viewer shocked and nauseous. But all the better for me! :)

The title of this blogpost I choose because, when the first season grows on you, it becomes one of the coolest catchy phrases ever heard from a media production -- and unsurprisingly it's the opening lines of the above video trailer I came across YouTube.

Perhaps I have fallen in love with this series because I'm such a pessimist and I don't see anything improving for Maldivians within the next 15 years - the time I hope it will take for all the conscience-challenged Maldivians above 35 years of age to die out so that the new generations of current young Maldivians can finally get the breathing space they need to usher in true Liberalism and Democratic Ideals to Maldives.

I have read from Winter-is-coming.net that Martin will write the rest of the books (total seven books) and that HBO will produce each book as a season, meaning that finally I will, for the next 7 years of my life, have something to look forward to.

And after that? Well, hopefully Maldives would have become Liberal to the extent that euthanasia will be legal. Cheers.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tangled: Deconstructing a realistic fantasy




REVIEW BY HILATH

What is a "realistic fantasy"? My friends mean it in different ways but my general understanding is that though the setting is based in a fantasy realm, characters behave and emote in realistic ways.

And when it comes to Tangled, the modern take on the Rapunzel story, I was surprised that an animated film could capture human emotions at an existential level. And you get to say that particularly about animated films in a very few instances.

And see how long I have “reviewed” an animated film - since writing a short halfhearted “review” of The Princess and the Frog more than a year back.

But when I watched Disney’s Tangled this week, it really surprised me – to the extent that I had to divert some time to write even a short "review" of it – because I felt that this was a film worthy to be recommended to any film-lover and I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t let all my friends know that here indeed was a film (animated or not) which is not to be missed at all.

Realism, ironically, is written all over this fantasy.

If you never gave a thought to how serious the crime of baby-stealing is, something which happens in the modern world, too, Tangled will give you a full blast on the heinous nature of this crime and the psychologically devastating consequences it would have on the parents.

The film captures this realistically by showing the King and Queen, in the few instances they are shown, as utterly silent and almost motionless. You can imagine: after so many years passed with no sign of their daughter, will such grieving parents have anything more to say in words? And towards the end, when the guard opens the door to the King and Queen’s chambers to announce that their daughter has indeed been found after 17 long years, even the guard remains silent and a subtle nod of his head with a ghost of a smile, says it all.

Such scenes touched me deeply and I have to congratulate the team behind Tangled for getting almost everything right.

And in the case of Rapunzel herself, observe the sensitive way how the film deals with her first venture out into the open world after she turned 17: the camera focusing on the grass as she was about to touch her feet on the ground for the first time; and how she sticks her toes into the sand to get that first feeling of the Earth. And then, in a comedic sort of way from her rescuer the thief’s viewpoint, the mixture of conflicting emotions she gives out, feeling both giddy and excited at the same time to be out in the open world for the first time, and also guilty and regretful because she has been “disobedient” to her “mother” for the first time - by leaving the tower in search of her dream.

The film starts with the thief, Flynn Rider, narrating that, unlike other fantasies, this story was about how he died. It grabs your attention right from the start and towards the end, the viewer is rewarded by that lasting selfless act he carries out in order to save Rapunzel: Flynn knows for sure that he will not survive but he carries out the act any way to save another human being from slavery and ultimately it is this humane act – coming no less from a thief himself – which leaves you humbled.

And, well, here’s a part I would rather have avoided. But before coming to that, perhaps I should mention here that I don’t know what’s wrong with me now but over the past two years since I have been coming into close contact with the Maldives' underprivileged class, and becoming disturbed by seeing and experiencing firsthand the subhuman conditions they live in, I have been avoiding realism cinema because it somehow disturbs me now.

In fact, I have not even watched half of the 10 Oscar nominated films of last year although I have all those films on my hard disk. So, I actually diverted time to watch Tangled after seeing its somewhat playful trailer thinking that since it was an animated fantasy, there would be no disturbing aftertastes lingering on my mind for days, like how it happened when I watched Black Swan and 127 Hours after preparing myself mentally for several days! If you should know I watched Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire a year after it was released and to date I still have been keeping Anti-Christ on my hard disk, too afraid to watch it but too cowardly either to delete that Lars Von Trier classic without watching it first! Perhaps I have become a softie now but if that is the result of witnessing the sick things that goes on in this small Maldivian society, then so be it.

So as I was saying, the first shock to my system came that Tangled was really a “realistic fantasy” during the psychologically twisted “interaction” the woman who stole Rapunzel (when she was a baby) later has with her while posing as her “mother.” In my life I have seen real Maldivians who are as psychologically twisted as this fake mother. So it really disturbed me to see how she plays with Rapunzel’s emotions and feelings to make sure that Rapunzel remains her slave in the tower forever.

This scene made me sick to my stomach but now that a film which belongs to the category of “realism cinema” had “tricked” me into watching it, I kept watching the film towards its very end. So although it was disturbing, Tangled was ultimately rewarding, because it is not every day that you come across such a cinematic gem, especially in these times when Hollywood is only concerned about making money-earning, brainless visual-effects laden films for testosterone-filled adolescent male teenagers.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

5 recent movies worth catching

REVIEWS by Hilath

I should mention my views on some movies, including Avatar in 3D, which I saw in Bangalore, India, last week:

THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG:
If they put their minds to it, Disney can make a traditional 2D animation classic and again they have proved it. Wonderful sets aside, the only drawback now for me is that I begin to realize that I am somewhat now not too comfortable with blatant sentimentality (such as Rose declaring to Jack “You jump, I jump” in Titanic which was nothing quite like the “I see you, You see me” concept offered by Neytiri to Jake Sully in Avatar).

KARTHIK CALLING KARTHIK:

If you don’t raise your expectations too high, this Farhan Akhtar-Deepika Padukone vehicle is quite engaging considering the schizophrenic nature of the movie. Don’t scold me now because it wasn’t me who spoiled the movie for you. It’s the title of the movie in case you didn’t notice it. So even though I am only giving it 2.5 stars (above average), the film is so unusually presented I think it’s worth a watch if nothing else is showing at a cinema near you right now (if there is a cinema near you in the first place).

IT’S COMPLICATED:
Coming from writer and director Nancy Meyers (who made that hilarious romantic comedy for the oldies Something’s Gotta Give), what more can we expect. Alec Baldwin has re-invented himself as a comedian from “30Rock” and Meryl Streep delivers an equally sensitive and comedic performance. The premise offered by “Divorced…with benefits” is just outrageous.

3 IDIOTS:Easily the best Hindi film to date.

And when I say that, it is quite the compliment because this is the first time that I comfortably sat through a 3-hour Hindi film, WITHOUT lowering my high expectations, and even when it ended I wanted it to go on.

I wanted that EXPERIENCE like when I watched the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire: I wanted to feel India… to feel Ladakh … to feel the mixture of pain and joy that define the Indian – and the Indian way of life… In fact me and another friend now planning to go to Ladakh at least within the next two years after seeing 3 Idiots :)

Writer and director Rajkumar Hirani has perfected what I call a tight and taught screenplay (instead of tricking the audience into staying for three hours to make their perception of ‘value for money’ delivered by putting in unnecessary, dragging scenes) and from this film, I finally came to recognize him as one of those few humans who has managed to wake up and see life and the world from purely a philosophical and existential level.

And when I say that about a mainstream, commercial Hindi film, I’m saying a lot. No wonder many of my friends and relatives now say that for them too 3 Idiots, starring Aamir Khan, the most versatile actor for me in Bollywood, is the best Hindi film ever. They watch it repeatedly they claim. One of my friends on the Bangalore trip watched it three times at the cinema and if we had more time I would have gone a couple of times as well because it’s the kind of satisfying experience you want to go on and on.

And finally,…

MY NAME IS KHAN:It is surprising that 20th Century Fox logo appears when presenting the film but the Hurricane Katrina set in Georgia, USA, looked so childish and fake. Now compare that to the flooding scene in 3 Idiots which look most real.

The only reason why I gave this Shah Rukh vehicle 1.5 stars (above worse) instead of just 1 star (the worst) was because (aside from its big budget), Karan Johar as a director fails to handle new terroristic material as he has been all his life usually more comfortable handling more straightforward and romantic material. Heck, even his produced comedies like Dostana (even if that film hadn’t been his subtle coming-out movie) was more enjoyable.

And in My Name is Khan, Karan pulls out the Ultimate Twist. I say the ultimate, if you can understand that what happened next will be the most shocking thing for a serial follower of Bollywood Hindi film industry like me :P

[SPOILER ALERT BIG TIME]

When Kajol finally appears but SRK was only a little too late before she manages to drive off in a taxi without seeing him, which was quite the devastating emotional high-point of the movie, I was totally expecting for the calming and soothing theme of (Karan’s first, and also closeted-homo-film, if there’s such a thing) Kuch Kuch Hota Hai to settle in: “A-aa-aa-a-aa-aa… A-aa-aa-a-aa-aa… (repeat many times)”…

Karan has obviously lost focus if he forgot his signature, no.

Sad to say, in order not to climb into bed disappointed that night, I had a listen to (before sobbing off into a disturbed sleep) the recurring sad theme from the DVD of Karan’s second but first bi-movie Khabi Pussy, Khabi Bum (Hindi title: Khabi Khushi, Khabi Ghum which in Na’vi language literally translates into “Sometimes Happy, Sometimes (Great) Sorrow”. I had to insert that ‘Great’ because the Na’vi people only experience eras of Great Sorrows whenever some Sky People invade their planet.

The only reason why I recommend people, who may have a cinema near you, to still go see this movie is because (for the first time) a star of such power as SRK has openly declared his support for Co-Existence among religions. And he declares himself a moderate Muslim who hates Taliban and what they stand for. This is a good message for humanity at this time as countries like Maldives are being slaughtered by the invisible conspiratorial force of Wahhabism and it’s totally legitimate child, the Taliban.

So, hail to Karan, SRK and Kajol for telling us this powerful story.

REVIEW: Enter the 3D world of “Avatar”




by Hilath

On MG Road in Bangalore, India, there is a traditional single-cinema theater, complete with Gold Class. It offers the opportunity to experience a shared community spirit and joy in loving the adrenaline- and emotion-evoking qualities offered by pure cinema — that is, before TV killed the theater. Read more

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Hurt Locker: realism cinema at peak art form

REVIEW BY HILATH

NOTE: Though I haven’t described any scenes in detail, some references I made hint at some shocking incidences which it’s better to check out without reading about it first!

There’s a scene towards the end of the film where SSGT William James (played with character by Jeremy Renner who excellently carries the film to a satisfying conclusion) tells his kid that as you grow older, the things you are interested in becomes few, and perhaps one day there might be just one or two things left in life you are really interested in and passionate about.

Some critics take this scene as an excuse for Renner, part of a United States Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team, to go back to the Iraq war, and therefore, ultimately leading to a predictable end to an otherwise great movie.

But I beg to differ.

Renner’s decision is predictable in that it is consistent with his quirky character -- who in his right mind will decide on his own to go back to the Iraq war? Yet having disarmed more than 800 explosives must have taken something deep inside him -- that even he may be not aware of -- to make him almost addicted to this dangerous “pastime”?

So I cannot say that Bigelow was going against the general international opposition towards the Iraq war purely for provocative value at the risk of being labeled a misguided patriot.

I can hardly disagree with Renner’s philosophical and existential look at life because I myself have found fewer and fewer things of interest as with age I am now more and more able to separate the many junk from the few gems that are found in life -- even when it comes to cinema itself.

Predictably, I haven’t written this long a review for several months because, well, I myself have become disillusioned with one of the few things I am passionate about now: movies.

The short reviews I had put up on this website and my official blog were just passing references to some movies that are mostly watchable and not necessarily pure forms of art.

Over the past few years I have become disillusioned with both Bollywood and Hollywood and even with European cinema which recently has become Hollywood-crazed, spewing out Hollywood-type movies but with an accent -- and also an aura of European exoticism -- what I call pseudo art posing as real art to cheat audiences (For example, if you think David Fincher’s Seven is a work of art, well, what can I say…)

So you really appreciate when once in a blue moon you are treated to pure cinematic art like Crash, United 93, Sideways, Little Miss Sunshine, Rachel Getting Married, Bridge to Terabithia, or in the case of documentaries, works like Man on Wire, Bus 174 or Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room.

I had been wondering what film could beat District 9 to take the place of my favorite film of 2009. As realism cinema is so rare I mostly dare not hope for more in order not to end up disappointed. So, it was with some apprehension that I started watching The Hurt Locker.

But what a reward it turned out to be!

When the film opened with Chris Hedges' words on the screen, “The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction; for war is a drug” I had a feeling I was on to something and I was right: Bigelow has got everything right -- from cinematography to score to character development and pace of editing.

From start to finish, you feel the tension of not knowing your surroundings, or even the nature of the Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) that Renner is forced to disarm on streets, vehicles, buildings, anywhere imaginable, even inside the bodies of humans -- an instance which also sets the platform for one of the most gruesome and disturbing scenes, which ironically box office pundits in fact blame for having kept audiences away from the film resulting in its poor revenue. But I bet Bigelow wasn’t concerned about box office rewards and made this uncompromising film for sheer movie buffs like me. Thank you Kathryn!

This gruesome scene also allows Bigelow to play around with uncritical audiences’ sense of predicting the plot (hint: involving an Iraqi boy called “Beckham”) -- and then giving us the opposite, making you feel silly for having made that prediction in the first place! Or was she just been naughtily playful with her audiences? Somebody like Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed perhaps?

To describe in musical terms, The Hurt Locker is like a masterpiece composition, a rare achievement even for any auteur.

I like films that appeal to me regardless of critical appreciation and awards. But I would like to make an interesting predication that Bigelow could beat ex-husband James Cameron’s Avatar to take the top honors at the Oscars this March.

Cameron already holds an Oscar record for Titanic and the industry may feel that Cameron deserves recognition more in technical achievement than aesthetic cinema. I am more for Cameron winning a lifetime achievement award this time for his exhaustive and innovative 12-year work on Avatar and Bigelow winning Best Director and Best Picture for The Hurt Locker.

Who knows, the Academy may. After all they elected Obama. So why not set yet another precedent by giving the Best Director and Best Picture Oscar for a woman for the first time by the 82-year-old Academy? America is a country that sets the trend, right?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

5 Recent movies worth a watch

Reviewed by Island Chic

Here are some movies on my ‘Recommended watch list’ of random movies I have recently seen. These are not of any specific genre. These just happen to be some favourites among the lot I’ve watched in the last few weeks. Thought it might be worth a mention. Read more

The Wrestler

REVIEW by Yusuf Abdulla Shunan

I am not much of a fan of Wrestling, or more importantly tear-jerky movies. And by the title, "The Wrestler (2008)" I wasn't expecting that, but this movie really made my eyes wet. Mickey, (also seen in Sin City) did great acting, really commendable... Read full review

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Man from Earth




Review by SIMON SHAREEF

It is seldom that movie is able to intrigue me in such a way as to wish it all to be true. The Man from Earth had me glued, unblinking, to the end. And at the end I was thoroughly satisfied, almost gleefully happy and childishly excited.

Here is a movie that asks a rather interesting question, one that would keep your imagination going wild and hungry and your coffee table discussions going long into the night. The Man from Earth asks the question, “What if a man from upper-paleolithic survived until the present day?” Read full review from Simon's blog

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

“District 9” – the best film of the year so far



Review by Hilath

Racism, in all its forms, is something all humans have to overcome if we are to ensure the survival of our species and others as well.

Whether it is one religion’s superiority over another; or one language’s superiority over another; or one ethnicity’s superiority over another; or one species’ superiority over another, racism is racism. Period.

Racism is against humanity. Racism is against the very essence of being human, of being an intelligent creature. Anybody who supports racism, seek psychiatric help first before you start speaking to me.

When a film gets an average of more than 8 points out of 10 on IMDB.com and when critics rave about it so much, not to mention one critic calling it the most unusual sci-fi film in recent history, you tend to wonder whether it really lives up to the hype and what could be so unusual about it to leave you stunned.

But here is one film which actually went beyond my expectations and one of the few films in recent memory that actually left me in a depressed mood hours after watching it. In fact, even as I write this, I am still in a quiet mood.

District 9 is one of those few films which can actually make you go emotionally haywire. I can only describe it as a social commentary disguised as a science fiction film. Its premise strikes uncomfortably close to home one of the most basal characteristics about us human beings; racism, hostility and wanton violence towards the unknown -- whether it’s another species different from our own, or whether it is another people ethnically, culturally or religious-wise different from us.

One of the greatest ironies in the film is how easily we tend to forget our own suffering and let our inherent racial bias and prejudice loose when black Africans, who themselves have suffered so much under Apartheid in South Africa, treat the aliens in the Johannesburg ghetto as subhuman. Is it then a wonder that the Israeli army routinely unleashes its violence against helpless Palestinians in Gaza though the Jews themselves suffered worse at the hands of Nazi Germany?

Throughout the film I sat stunned and towards the end, a lump formed in my throat as director Neill Blomkamp crafted his masterpiece of a movie weaving into it the very melancholic sadness I felt when I watched Steven Spielberg’s misunderstood alien in E.T. The Extraterrestrial and Brad Bird’s misunderstood alien in The Iron Giant. I am glad Jorge Blanco and Javier Abad are releasing their animated Planet 51 on November 20; that film should demonstrate to any human what it feels like to be misunderstood as an alien "invader" among an alien species; sort of an ironic reversal of fortune (see the below YouTube trailer).



When District 9 ended, I felt so strongly for a sequel to deliver justice that had been denied, and felt utterly disgusted with the word “alien” itself. Who are we humans to think we are a superior species? And who are we humans to think that a certain ethnicity is superior to all others based on religion, language or anything else? Living things are living things. Life is life.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

“Twilight”: abstinence from eating your food/lover



The above YouTube “trailer” titled “Twilight with Cheeseburgers” for me sums up the cheesy conceptual silliness of the premise on which Stephanie Meyer bases her story “Twilight.”

The pointless concepts like “vampires who sparkle like diamonds” and “vegetarian vampires” and the lame dialogues ranging from Edward’s comments to Bella like “The lion have fallen in love with the lamb” and “You are like my own personal brand of heroin” is the worst kind of screenwriting ever.



Needless to say, “Twilight” is my worst film of 2008.

It also brings to my mind my worst film of 2002 “Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones” which was based on a romantic premise that would put Bollywood’s Yash Chopra to shame because it had the worst movie romantic dialogue ever. Case in point: when Anakin touches Padme’s hands and back and compares the softness of her skin to the desert’s tough structure: “I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere. Not like here. Here everything is soft and smooth.” See YouTube video below:

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Where we all call ‘Home’ …

REVIEW BY SUBCORPUS

Hello …
Few days back … on recommendation from some of my friends …
I downloaded and watched a documentary called ‘Home’
And I tell you … it was awesome … it totally blew my mind …
Home by Yann Arthus-Bertrand is a beautifully shot panorama …
Planet Earth and the damage done to it by modern humanity …
The film has breathtaking aerial footage from 54 countries …
Showing the pure beauty of our planet with amazing facts …
Glenn Close narrates the journey with very good original music …
We are shown the history of Earth how everything came about …
And how everything is interconnected and balance maintained …

Read the rest of the review from subcorpus blog

Monday, July 20, 2009

Transform this … transform that …

REVIEW BY SUBCORPUS

Hello …
I was in KL a few days back …
I had the chance to watch Transformers 2 on big screen …
I was all excited waiting in line for an hour to get tickets …
But it seems my excitement was short lived …
The moment the movie began … after 20 mins of ads …
It went downhill from that point onwards …
Let me tell you …I really liked the first Transformers movie …
But this Revenge of the Fallen could not have sucked more …

Read the rest of the review from Subcorpus' blog

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Warped hilarity in Will Ferrell's "Land of the Lost"

REVIEW BY HILATH

It may not be as smart as Anchor Man but Will Ferrell’s Land of the Lost, based on the 1974 TV series, has its own originality and hilarity.

From Brad Silberling, director of the excellent City of Angels, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events and Casper comes science mixed with humor, irony and even slapstick, which might put off some people.

In this literally warped setting, Ferrell and Co. get stuck in a place (a singularity like a black hole or Big Bang?) where the past, present and even the future are found together! So don’t be surprised if you find humans together with barely evolved Neanderthals, dinosaurs and even aliens with mindboggling technology! Not to mention collapsed bridges, ice cream trucks, a motel, a swimming pool and even a Narcotic Tree oasis all together in a combined land of desert, cave, forest and even a volcano!

And I was thinking “Wtf?” when I saw a “monkey boy” about to be sacrificed on a slab of stone by a “monkey man” with a dagger! This monkey boy is supposed to have a “harem” of 7,000 (not so virgin) gals, whom we get to see towards the end of the movie…

I have not seen the 1974 TV series on which this film is based but am wondering whether the filmmakers have taken vast liberties on this one because I can’t imagine all this mind-fucked shit in the 1974 series which was supposed to be a children’s TV series!

So I guess this is as twisted as a Will Ferrell comedy can get! kekeke

Original link on Hilath's blog

Monday, July 6, 2009

Stiller has more fun with history in “Battle of the Smithsonian”

REVIEW BY HILATH

It’s difficult to compare Night at the Museum with its sequel Battle of the Smithsonian because while the former was more emotionally touching, the latter is more fun and action!

So much animation and visual effects must have gone into Battle but what is enjoyable (and made me watch the movie with a smile on my face) is Ben Stiller’s own take on world and American history! I’m saying this because Stiller is such a big shot in Hollywood he really does have a say in shaping the projects he is involved in, and though he does not have a producer or writer credit to this movie, some of the fun in the movie is pure Stiller. Read the rest of the review from Hilath's blog